It’s a new year, which means it’s time for new business strategies to keep your small business evolving and always fresh and new. It’s time to develop new ways to keep your desktops clutter-free and create a much more organized office space for more efficiency all around the office.
Meet, “Future Office”.
Remember on The Jetsons, how all of their futuristic household electronics seemed so far-fetched? You were laughing back then, but now we use Skype for video phone calls across the world, electric hybrid cars, the electric Roomba vacuum cleaning robot, a single handheld device used for surfing the Internet, talking on the phone, taking photos, video chat and watching movies — also known as a the iPhone, the Segway transports security cops around the mall with authority and a bit of humor, and there’s the countless wireless electronics that allow us to break free from sitting still.
How is it that as modern technology continues to successfully evolve, using endless amounts of paper in the office is still very slow to progress? Most business owners are still not completely confident in trusting technology to improve their business lives even though their lives outside the office have improved immensely thanks to modern technology.
Future Office technology does not just mean using modern technology, like computers, projectors and printers. It refers to what we are using these modern technological machines for. No one uses a typewriter anymore because it’s not anywhere nearly as advanced as a computer and especially because it uses paper. Yet for some reason, after we type on a computer, we still bother to print the document and pop it in the mailbox or into a fax machine. While technology has evolved, the concept has remained exactly the same. Why on earth are we still printing documents to mail and fax?
The ultimate Future Office would not contain any paper. Every document would be received by e-mail, downloaded from a website, or received by an electronic fax website service. All out-going mail would be e-mailed or electronically faxed using a website service. All magazines, newspapers, bills, checks and invoices would be subscribed to online or delivered directly to your inbox.
If we have computers, then there is no more need for filing cabinets taking up space in your offices. Desk drawers would only contain a small stash of emergency post-it notes, a couple of pens, a pack of gum, and hand sanitizer. Take a look around your desk area right now. Look through your drawers. How many items do you see that exist only for the sole purpose to accommodate the use of paper? A plethora of pens and pencils, tape, stapler, tacks, paperclips, bulletin board, scissors, filing cabinets, binders, highlighters, Sharpies, folders, and envelopes. Now imagine if all of those items disappeared and ask yourself, “Do I even really need any of this stuff if we didn’t use paper?”
I bet a good third of you could go paperless tomorrow (as long as it’s a regular business day). Because you already have a computer and the internet. That’s virtually all you need. Sure you have filing cabinets full of old papers, but the operative word there is “old”; Expired, Obsolete, Ancient, In-the-past. All you need now is a scanner to scan all of your beloved (legal) documents stuffed inside your filing cabinets and load them neatly into digital folders on your hand-dandy computer.
Mailing Checks Vs. Online Bill Pay
It’s an age-old process: receive mail, open envelope, get paper cut, cry a little, get a band-aid, finish taking document out of envelope, browse over document, write check, place check in provided envelope, place stamp on envelope, slap address label on envelope… you get the point. Sounds like a lot of work. What about using the computer you’re already sitting in front of, browse to your online bank account, click “bill pay”, enter dollar amount, and click “submit”. Online bill pay is more efficient, environmentally-friendly and just plain smart. How can a small business owner on the top of their game still keep filing cabinets full of old paid bills and copies of bank deposits?
Why still mail invoices to customers? You use e-mail for everything else, so this super quick method to get an identical copy of the same document sent to clients in mere seconds sounds like the way to go.
Newspapers and Magazines
How long are you keeping customers waiting in your lobby? Hopefully not long enough to read an entire two page article in Forbes Magazine or the Boston Globe. Why not upgrade to the 21st century and invest in an economical flat-screen LCD monitor mounted on the wall and play a slideshow of your company services or stream the local news? This shows customers you are up with modern times and aren’t promoting the spread of germs by sharing table literature. The only paper on tables should be versatile, like company brochures and informational booklets that you can also bring on sales calls and hand out at tradeshows.
Who still uses a fax machine? A better way to fax is signing up for an online fax service. You upload the file you would normally print then send it over the Internet to the receiver’s fax machine. Or you could simply e-mail the same document without the use of an online fax service at all. Thinking of buying a new fax machine? Why not spend that $500 on a new scanner to scan those millions of paper documents sitting in your clunky filing cabinets and perform a little thing called digital archiving. And while you’re at it, develop a new company procedure to scan documents for storing in an organized, shared filing system on your company network.
Paper is not an investment. Technology is.